From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Jewish culture is the culture of the Jewish people, from its formation in ancient times until the current age. Judaism itself is not a faith-based religion, but an orthoprax and ethnoreligion, pertaining to deed, practice, and identity. Jewish culture covers many aspects, including religion and worldviews, literature, media, and cinema, art and architecture, cuisine and traditional dress, attitudes to gender, marriage, family, social customs and lifestyles, music and dance.
Jewish philosophy includes all philosophy carried out by Jews, or in relation to the religion of Judaism. The Jewish philosophy is extended over several main eras in Jewish history, including the ancient and biblical era, medieval era and modern era (see Haskalah). The ancient Jewish philosophy is expressed in the bible. According to Prof. Israel Efros the principles of the Jewish philosophy start in the bible, where the foundations of the Jewish monotheistic beliefs can be found, such as the belief in one god, the separation of god and the world and nature (as opposed to Pantheism) and the creation of the world. Other biblical writings that associated with philosophy are Psalms that contains invitations to admire the wisdom of God through his works; from this, some scholars suggest, Judaism harbors a Philosophical under-current and Ecclesiastes that is often considered to be the only genuine philosophical work in the Hebrew Bible; its author seeks to understand the place of human beings in the world and life's meaning.
Other writings related to philosophy can be found in the Deuterocanonical books such as Sirach and Book of Wisdom. During the Hellenistic era, Hellenistic Judaism aspired to combine Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture and philosophy. The philosopher Philo used philosophical allegory to attempt to fuse and harmonize Greek philosophy with Jewish philosophy. His work attempts to combine Plato and Moses into one philosophical system.
He developed an allegoric approach of interpreting holy scriptures (the bible), in contrast to (old-fashioned) literally interpretation approaches. His allegorical exegesis was important for several Christian Church Fathers and some scholars hold that his concept of the Logos as God's creative principle influenced early Christology. Other scholars, however, deny direct influence but say both Philo and Early Christianity borrow from a common source.
Between the Ancient era and the Middle Ages most of the Jewish philosophy concentrated around the Rabbinic literature that is expressed in the Talmud and Midrash. In the 9th century Saadia Gaon wrote the text Emunoth ve-Deoth which is the first systematic presentation and philosophic foundation of the dogmas of Judaism. The Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain included many influential Jewish philosophers such as Moses ibn Ezra, Abraham ibn Ezra, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Yehuda Halevi, Isaac Abravanel, Nahmanides, Joseph Albo, Abraham ibn Daud, Nissim of Gerona, Bahya ibn Paquda, Abraham bar Hiyya, Joseph ibn Tzaddik, Hasdai Crescas and Isaac ben Moses Arama. The most notable is Maimonides who is considered, beside the Jewish world, to be a prominent philosopher and polymath in the Islamic and Western worlds. Outside of Spain, other philosophers are Natan'el al-Fayyumi, Elia del Medigo, Jedaiah ben Abraham Bedersi and Gersonides.
Philosophy by Jews in Modern era was expressed by philosophers, mainly in Europe, such as Baruch Spinoza founder of Spinozism, whose work included modern Rationalism and Biblical criticism and laying the groundwork for the 18th-century Enlightenment.
His work has earned him recognition as one of Western philosophy's most important thinkers; Others are Isaac Orobio de Castro, Tzvi Ashkenazi, David Nieto, Isaac Cardoso, Jacob Abendana, Uriel da Costa, Francisco Sanches and Moses Almosnino. A new era began in the 18th century with the thought of Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn has been described as the "'third Moses,' with whom begins a new era in Judaism," just as new eras began with Moses the prophet and with Moses Maimonides.
Mendelssohn was a German Jewish philosopher to whose ideas the renaissance of European Jews, Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment) is indebted. He has been referred to as the father of Reform Judaism, though Reform spokesmen have been "resistant to claim him as their spiritual father". Mendelssohn came to be regarded as a leading cultural figure of his time by both Germans and Jews. The Jewish Enlightenment philosophy included Menachem Mendel Lefin, Salomon Maimon and Isaac Satanow. The next 19th century comprised both secular and religious philosophy and included philosophers such as Elijah Benamozegh, Hermann Cohen, Moses Hess, Samson Raphael Hirsch, Samuel Hirsch, Nachman Krochmal, Samuel David Luzzatto, and Nachman of Breslov founder of Breslov. The 20th century included the notable philosophers Jacques Derrida, Karl Popper, Emmanuel Levinas, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Hilary Putnam, Alfred Tarski, Ludwig Wittgenstein, A. J. Ayer, Walter Benjamin, Raymond Aron, Theodor W. Adorno, Isaiah Berlin and Henri Bergson.